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X-Ray Exams

What's an X-Ray?

An X-ray is a safe and painless test that uses a small amount of radiation to make an image of bones, organs, and other parts of the body.

The X-ray image is black and white. Dense body parts, such as bones, block the passage of the X-ray beam through the body. These look white on the X-ray image. Softer body tissues, such as the skin and muscles, allow the X-ray beams to pass through them. They look darker on the image.

What's Involved in an X-Ray?

Taking an X-ray involves a machine that sends out X-ray beams to a table or other flat surface that is sensitive to the beams. What’s used can vary, depending on what body part is being tested. 

Why Are X-Rays Done?

Health care providers order X-rays for many different reasons. These tests can help them find:

  • broken bones
  • causes of symptoms, like cough or belly pain
  • growth or development problems
  • dislocated joints and other joint problems
  • soft tissue problems
  • cysts and tumors

Dentists also order X-rays to look for problems with the teeth (such as decay, impacted teeth, and cavities) and jaws.

What Are the Types of X-Rays?

Common X-rays ordered for kids and teens include:

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: March 2022